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Developing capacity

Social workers' workload survey: Messages from the frontline


To inform the Social Work Task Force of the nature and content of social work activity in front line practice. 

Research team

Jo Moriarty
Jill Manthorpe
Martin Stevens
Tay Nagendran
Mary Baginsky (Children's Workforce Development Council)
Tom MacInnes (New Policy Institute)


Children's Workforce Development Council
Department of Health


The Task Force commissioned this unprecedented survey of social workers’ activities and workloads. Social workers were asked to keep diaries for one week between March – June 2009. Of the 1153 who responded to the invitation to participate, 63% worked in Local Authority children’s services, 25% in adult services, 2% in merged services and 12% in the voluntary and independent sector. The project team constructed the survey following a review of the literature and analysed the returns. A sample of those responding were ‘shadowed’ to observe practice and telephone interviews were undertaken with Directors of children’s and adults services.


Notwithstanding major concerns over social workers’ morale, many still find their work rewarding despite being under pressure. 


2009 - 2010


Baginsky, M., Moriarty, J., Manthorpe, J., Stevens, M., MacInnes, T. & Nagendran, T., (2010), 'Social Workers' Workload Survey. Messages from the Frontline. Findings from the 2009 survey and interviews with senior managers' [pdf, 2.33 MB], London: Department for Children, Schools and Families; Department of Health.


16 April 2010 Anna Gupta reports the study findings in Community Care.


The study informed the Social Work Reform Board.

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